A promotional video put out by Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism featured Hume Hotel owner Ryan Martin (left), Mayor Deb Kozak and star Jenna Skidmore. Photo courtesy of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

Tourism agency active despite wildfires

Campaigns encourage visitors to be prepared for Nelson visit

Dianna Ducs knows how fortunate we are.

The head of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism has been watching closely as B.C. experiences one of its worst fire seasons in decades, but it feels a little awkward to celebrate that our community has emerged unscathed so far.

“We’re very fortunate, because things could change really quickly — who knows what the weather is going to do tomorrow?” Ducs told the Star.

“So the information we’ve been pushing out, guided by the messaging put out by Destination BC, is not ‘come here because everything is wonderful.’ Our line is, ‘Be prepared and be aware there could be fires, storms, smoke.’”

So far, she said, the fires have had a “neutralizing” effect on the local tourism economy. Concerns that people would cancel their visits en masse were unfounded, and the numbers from local festivals and outdoor events have been encouraging.

“We have people who are cancelling who aren’t aware of where we are, who think the whole province is on fire. The unfortunate statement from our B.C. government that B.C. in an emergency, it spread world-wide, and BBC was saying ‘B.C. is on fire’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, not all of it!’.”

However, people travelling to places that are affected by wildfire are pivoting in the direction of Nelson instead. So it kind of evens out.

“I’m hearing from my accommodators that they’ll lose someone to cancellation, but then people will show up on their doorsteps that have not made a reservation. And they’ve all been busy.”

Meanwhile, Ducs has been keeping busy with a number of projects. Along with her staff, she’s pursued collaborations with the City of Nelson and the local business community that highlight the area’s attractions.

“Our biggest campaign right now is Finding Awesome. We have started a series of 18 videos, nine being food and culture-specific and nine being more regional. The regional ones are being created by Freeride Entertainment, while the others are being created by Jenna Skidmore and Amy Bohigian.”

They’ve now released three of those 18 videos on findingawesome.ca, and their viewership is up 500 per cent.

“Another cool part is we did a contest, a spring photo and video contest, where you add the hashtag #findingawesome and it gets collated into a system. We had 1,500 photos and 93 videos submitted.”

The winning photos and videos are now posted online. She noted Vince DeVito Shoes took home one of the awards, for an ad featuring a sandal tan — she got a kick out of the fact the shoe store won for an image that didn’t even feature shoes.

“People are pretty optimistic these days. We’re in a really good spot, tourism-wise. We were up again another 10 per cent in 2016 from 2015, and there’s been a between 10 to 12 per cent raise every year since I started five years ago.”

These numbers reflect the financial contribution the accommodators of the area pay to NKLT through a tax. Some of those upticks are due to hotels raising their prices, new accommodators getting added to the area, and the recent addition of Airbnb operators.

It’s on their behalf she’s making sure that on top of promoting the area, NKLT will also be instrumental in dealing with the fall-out from a large-scale disaster like a wildfire.

“Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism is creating a crisis plan, and as an entity we need to be conscious of what we will do in the future if something happens. This has been a really good opportunity for us to figure out what we will do in the future,” she said.

“Tourists and locals should be conscious of what potentially could happen. Let’s celebrate that we’re in a good place now, and tell people to come here, but at the same time: be informed.”

Will Johnson was one of the actors featured in Kootenay Lake Tourism’s #FindingAwesome video about the Hume Hotel.

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